Mayor's proposed budget holds the line for arts in 2009

Today, Mayor Greg Nickels announced his proposed 2009-2010 budget. The city's general fund is facing significant challenges due to the national economic slowdown and rising costs. Money is tight for arts organizations, business, families and city government. Many city departments will weather reductions.

Mayor Nickels recognizes the importance of the arts to young people, to economic growth, to the vitality of neighborhoods and communities, and to Seattle residents and visitors. Despite the tough economic climate, the mayor's proposed budget holds the line for the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs' budget in 2009.

Here's the good news. We will maintain our core programs and continue our current levels of investment in the city's arts and cultural organizations, individual artists, youth arts, neighborhood and community programs. We will also enter into the second year of our groundbreaking Arts Education Partnership Initiative with Seattle Public Schools, with the district matching our $100,000 investment to provide access to a quality arts education for all students. And with more than 40 active public art projects, we will continue to enrich our city's public spaces.

The Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs receives funding from four primary sources.

We receive 20 percent of the city's admissions tax revenues, which primarily fund our grant programs. The current admissions tax is 5 percent on every dollar of ticket sales. Our portion of admissions tax revenues are projected at $1.2 million in 2009.

The city's general fund supports our operations and a portion of our funding programs. The proposed general fund allocation in 2009 is $2.9 million. This amount includes an additional $60,000 added in 2009 and 2010 to make up for a new admissions tax exemption for small music venues.

The municipal art fund—which is comprised of one percent of budgets for eligible city capital improvement projects—supports our public art program. The proposed appropriation for this fund is about $3.4 million in 2009.

The Cumulative Reserve Fund (CRF) funds our public art maintenance, and will remain at the current level of $170,000.

Our total 2009 proposed budget allocation is $7.5 million—down $356,000 from 2008. The 2009 budget does not include several one-time additions in 2008 for capital special projects, which accounts for much of the difference between our 2008 and 2009 budgets.

The situation changes in 2010 when the mayor's budget proposes a four percent reduction to our general fund allocation In effect, we are postponing reductions until 2010 in the hopes that by then the economy will turn around. If not, this gives us a year to figure out the best way to reduce expenses while providing quality core program services.

By working together we will we ensure the continued vitality of Seattle's cultural life. You can learn more about the mayor's proposed 2009-2010 budget on his Web site.

Michael Killoren

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